Friday, October 10, 2008

To think this today (Peten jungle, Guatemala)...

...used to be this (El Mirador, Guatemala)...

...which looks a lot like this (Cahokia, Illinois)...

As part of my course on Classic Maya Civilization, we are actually learning about some pre-Classic Maya cities that have only recently come to light in the Peten lowlands of Guatemala. Perhaps the first large Maya city was located here, now called El Mirador. The middle picture above is an artist's conception of the ancient city based on current archaeological evidence. It is thought that perhaps up to 100,000 people may have lived here in the Maya city. The city was built of limestone and its monumental structures were painted red and white. Keep in mind the ruins of this once breathtaking Maya city date to ca. 300 BC, well before the Classic Maya civilization of great kings and monuments that we've known about for some time. That means that, indeed, Maya civilization dates back far earlier than we once thought, and their civilization achieved monumental grandeur much earlier than previously thought.

What's even more intriguing, although this comparison is still considered outside the mainstream perspective of most current anthropologists, is that large earthen monumental structures similar to the those of the Olmec and the stone structures of the Maya were present in North America's Mississippi Valley dating back to nearly 4,000 BC (Watson Brake, Louisiana).

This begs the question: Did the ancestors of the later Olmec and Maya civilizations live in the Mississippi Valley before migrating south into Mesoamerica (Mexico and Central America)? Anthropologists have long tried to imply Mesoamerican influence upon the Mississippi Valley and Southeastern U.S., but it seems, more and more, we are being presented with evidence to the contrary: the Mississippi Valley may have influenced Mesoamerica.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Just to update what I've been up to:

Ajtz'ib Maya (Maya scribe)

I finished my Wikipedia project for the Classic Maya Civilization class. My project was writing a brief grammatical sketch of Q'anjob'al, a modern Maya language spoken in the Guatemala highlands. For those of you who are interested, here is the direct link:'anjob'al_language

(It is also posted on the right side bar with the other Wikipedia articles I've written or had a hand in writing or editing.) There are still a few things I might add, but I think it is a good start for now, especially since almost nothing has been published in English on this language (a few books have been published in Spanish).

I am doing the final edits for my article to appear in the Journal of Folklore Research. I understand it will be published in the final edition of this year, probably around the end of October. This is the article I've written on two Rumsen Ohlone folktales that have never before been published in the original Rumsen language, along with the English translation. I hope this will encourage Rumsens to start a language revitalization project and perhaps teach these two stories to their children.